Characteristics of Black Horses
There is something special about black horses, and it’s to do with their genetic make-up. Black, like red, is one of the base colours, and it is the action of other genes on the black foundation coat that produces bay, which in turn produces buckskin when influenced by the cream gene. This is also why bay and buckskin horses have black points (black manes, tails and lower legs), which is part of their appeal. Black is also the base coat for some paint, appaloosa and roan horses. In other words, without the black base coat, we wouldn’t have some of the other stunning colours and black and white markings that can be found in horses and ponies.
Black horses: The Best Breeds for this Colour
Many breeds are known for their all-black horses. Friesians, with their full, flowing manes and tails and proud head carriage, are much in demand for TV and film work. Fell ponies and Dales ponies are also mostly black, although unlike the Friesians, which are always this colour, they have other coat colours, including bay, grey and roan. Historically, some breeds have been named after their colouring, including the Old English Black, an ancestor of the Shire, and the Black Cart Horse of the Cotentin; a French breed. The Mérens pony of the Pyrenees and the Murghese horse of Apulia are two other lovely all-black breeds. Black is a desirable coat colour in many American breeds, including the Saddlebred, the Quarter Horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Morgan Horse. The Iberian breeds also include many black horses; the Menorquin only ever has this colour. One interesting aspect of black colouring is that some ponies and horses, including breeds as diverse as the Eriskay pony and the Lippizaner, are born with black coats and lighten as they age.
Famous Black Horses
Many black horses have enchanted people over the centuries! They are frequently associated with rulers and warlike leaders. Alexander the Great’s horse, the famous Bucephalus, was said to have been a black horse with a white mark shaped like an ox-head on his forehead. Some accounts describe it as the ox-head brand, the mark of a noble horse. The best-known horse in fiction, Black Beauty, tells his own story in Anna Sewell’s famous book, which has sold millions of copies. He describes himself as black, with a white star and one white foot. Fictional he may have been, but his story was also influential in ensuring better conditions for working horses. Walter Farley’s books about a wild black stallion and the boy who befriends him have also captured many people’s hearts. Black horses have cast a spell over people in real life, too. One of the most influential horses in American horse breeding was Black Hawk, a grandson of Justin Morgan. For many years, Queen Elizabeth II regularly rode Burmese, a black mare given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for the ceremony of the Trooping of the Colour. Both the Mounties and the Household Cavalry only use black horses, apart from the horses that carry the drums for the Household Cavalry Band. Today, the Queen still favours a black horse, or rather a pony, for her regular rides in Windsor Park. Somewhat smaller than Burmese, but just as regal, Fell pony Carltonlima Emma carries out her duties as the Queen’s favourite equine companion with impeccable manners.